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Get Crisis Ready!



Are you crisis ready? Does your organisation have a crisis management plan and a crisis communication plan? Consider scenarios including natural disaster, power outage, epidemic, misconduct, and criminal malevolence – do you know what it actually takes to be crisis ready?

As a communications professional, you probably already think about these issues – if you don’t, you should. In the event of a crisis you will be instrumental to response, whether managing the media or dealing with a public relations crisis fallout, you can be sure that you will be knee deep in it! When a crisis hits, your organisation will respond, but the nature of the response will differ vastly depending on whether or not a crisis plan is in place. Get crisis ready.

In 2009, global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller surveyed crisis planning in European businesses. Respondents (business decision makers) widely agreed that the uncontrollable and uncertain nature of a crisis means it poses significant threats to a company’s reputation, and the results showed that crisis preparedness directly affects a company’s bottom line.

Almost two-thirds of those polled had experienced a crisis at their company, and of those, 59% had had a crisis within the previous 12 months. However, astonishingly, only 53% of the businesses had a crisis plan.

The results showed that businesses with a crisis plan react and recover faster than those without: 59% of those with a plan recovered within six months compared to 42% of those without a plan.

94% of respondents that had experienced a crisis and implemented a planned crisis response believe that their crisis plan saved their company money.

Read the full research report here New survey shows that only half of European firms have a crisis plan in place in spite of the significant financial and reputational benefits of crisis preparedness.

At Briggs Communications, we believe that crisis management planning, incorporating a detailed crisis communications plan makes an essential contribution to achieving corporate goals, and fulfilling organisational values and responsibilities. Corporate goals, values and responsibilities dictate how an organisation executes its business and consequently, the implications for stakeholders.

A man is not an island, and nor is a company. An organisation, no matter how large or small, operates in a wider business context and therefore has a responsibility to its stakeholders, as well as a fiduciary duty to its owners or shareholders. This responsibility covers all kinds of things like providing a safe workplace for employees, making money for owners or shareholders, building and protecting the organisation’s brand, providing good products or services to customers, treating suppliers well, and being compliant with regulations. To neglect crisis planning is to neglect responsibilities in any, or all, of these areas, because an unmitigated crisis will detrimentally affect any, or all, of these facets of an organisation.

So, we know how important it is to have a crisis plan incorporating details of how to communicate with the media, public, stakeholders and staff. Without such a plan there are serious ramifications of crises on business reputation and continuity. And we’ve established that an alarming number of organisations are unprepared for a crisis.

Now the question is: why do so many organisations neglect the task of crisis planning? Two common barriers to crisis readiness are:

  • Executives in the business don’t recognise the importance of having a crisis plan; they haven’t properly assessed the potential impact of risks the business faces.

  • People in the business who should be responsible for preparing a crisis plan don’t know how to do it, or believe it’s a complicated, difficult undertaking and therefore put it off.

These two quite simple reasons can prevent organisations from pre-empting and preparing for crises to safeguard their future. This isn’t logical reasoning given the figures and real-world examples that illustrate how crises damage business continuity and how effectively businesses can guard against some of this damage by being crisis ready.

But there it is; people are human and not always logical. We’re susceptible to complacence and procrastination, we are sometimes ignorant, we are often overloaded at work, and we sometimes avoid things that we don’t know how to do even when we know they’re important.

If all the best intentions are there, and still a crisis planning project is not on your organisation’s agenda, then seek clearance to delegate the task to a specialist consultancy that offers crisis planning services. Look for an agency, like Briggs Communications, that can provide you with an expert consultant or team that will walk beside you through the process. It’s vital that the consultants come in and liaise closely with your organisation to ensure the crisis plan is embedded, and supports perpetual information transfer.

A crisis plan is an integral document to have however training and testing have to happen, ideally biannually, to bring it to life. People, strategy and the business environment (exposures/risks) change constantly; don’t look at crisis planning as a project that can be completed and never revisited again, rather as an ongoing management responsibility that receives cyclic attention and updates. BP’s disaster response to the Deep Water Horizon spill is a very clear example of how easily this element of continuity can be overlooked, and the inadequacy of an out-dated or boilerplate crisis plan (read more: June 15, 2010: Markey Holds Hearing With Top Oil CEOs). If it can happen at a company that spends millions on risk management, then it can happen at any organisation – it’s imprudent and naïve to think this is not the case.

Resources (both money and time) need to be invested to get planning underway or to engage a consultant to do it, so ultimately crisis management planning has to be sponsored by the executive leadership. However, as Burson-Marsteller’s research shows, the ultimate return on investment proves crisis planning to be worthwhile recipient of budget.

The biggest barrier to crisis management planning is complacence. Don’t allow complacence to threaten the company’s reputation and relationships you have nurtured through your public relations work. As someone who will be heavily involved in crisis response, it’s worth you getting the CEO’s attention and applying some influence to get crisis management planning to the top of the company agenda.

How prepared is your team to handle a crisis? We offer a range of crisis training, planning, and testing services; Click here to get in touch with our team today.

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